AIKEN -- Every high school freshman in South Carolina will be graded equally beginning in August.
The mandatory change ends inconsistencies that for years have occurred unintentionally throughout the state. Before the board of education enacted the new grading scale -- at the request of the General Assembly -- every school district played by its own rules.
The inequities came to light when lawmakers considered criteria for earning a state-funded scholarship.
The rules seemed simple enough: Get a B average, score 1,000 on the SAT, land $2,000 per year for college. Although the SAT requirement for the LIFE Scholarship was clearcut, some educators didn't know what a B average meant -- or a C, D or F. And the answer varied from person to person.
Depending on the high school, getting a B could be more difficult for some students than others.
The confusion centered on the state's failure to define a B. Although colleges and technical schools had long used a 4.0 scale to determine who made the grade for scholarship purposes, some high schools in 86 school districts throughout the state used different scales.
There are least four different grade-point averages now. Adding to that the range of numerical grading systems used to assign course grades, no one seemed to be able to determine exactly what a B was.
Under the uniform system, it can be anything from an 85 to a 92.
Letters will be mailed to parents explaining the change, and educators continue to lobby for funds in the state budget to help schools pay for data entry and other costs the switch entails.
"In general, there was little consistency among school districts relative to grades or grading policies," education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum said. "The inconsistencies are especially obvious when high school students' transcripts are sent to colleges and universities. This makes the task of determining which students are eligible for college entrance, as well as who qualifies for scholarships, a difficult one."
Flexibility to use the new scale, some phase-in of the new policy, or the most recent district policy is acceptable next year for sophomores, juniors and seniors.
Grading policies in elementary and middle schools, where courses do not count toward a diploma, remain unchanged.
Reach Chasiti Kirkland at (803) 279-6895.
Here is the statewide grading system that will apply to all high school freshmen beginning this fall:
A: 93 to 100
B: 85 to 92
C: 77 to 84
D: 70 to 76
F: 69 and below